Tachyon Publications has released the first printing of She Walks in Darkness, a previously unpublished work by Evangeline Walton! I have yet to readTachyon Publications has released the first printing of She Walks in Darkness, a previously unpublished work by Evangeline Walton! I have yet to read her Mabinogion Tetralogy, but this came recommended by Tim Powers and Patricia A. McKillip (two more fine authors who have recently published with Tachyon), so I was thrilled to receive and read it! I didn't know what to expect from Walton's writing, but I was anticipating a supernatural story based on those recommendations. Things seems to be heading in that direction as young newlywed Barbara Keyes considers the statue of Mania, the Etruscan goddess of the dead, in the courtyard of the Tuscan villa where she is honeymooning with her archaeologist husband. Barbara happens upon the dead body of the estate's old caretaker, which then vanishes just as mysteriously as he was killed. Barbara must descend into the dark catacombs beneath the villa, and the story takes as many twists and turns as she does in discovering the truth of the sordid crime!...more
I'm always glad when summer turns to fall, but I haven't finished reviewing summer books yet! So if you didn't get enough summer sun, I give you the SI'm always glad when summer turns to fall, but I haven't finished reviewing summer books yet! So if you didn't get enough summer sun, I give you the Sun Summoner, Alina Starkov! She doesn't just walk in darkness she dispels it, allowing safe passage through the deadly Fold that divides Ravka. When last we saw Alina, she was escaping the Darkling who had enthralled her power to increase his own. She abandoned him in the Fold, leaving him to perish in the everlasting darkness he created. Alina rescued her friend Mal, and together they sailed to a distant land to lead ordinary lives. That would be nice for them, but it would make a rotten second book in the series. Fortunately the Darkling tracks them down - he survived, and gained terrible new powers in the process! Even so he still requires Alina's ability, and they go off in search of another amplifier to increase its potency. All the conflicting plans come to fruition with minimal resistance. A new character is introduced, and he spirits Alina and Mal away from the Darkling. What follows is a tour of the other districts countryside that reminded me too much of the second book in another young adult series. There is another overwhelming confrontation with the Darkling and his hordes, but Alina and her ragtag band of freedom fighters manage to slip through the siege. They take refuge in an underground bunker, and the Mockingjay Sun Summoner becomes a symbol of the uprising to come in the last book in the trilogy. I didn't care for the third book in that other popular series, so I wouldn't continue reading this series if not for a singular surprise in the ending. I prefer Bardugo's short fables set in the same world, such as "The Too-Clever Fox," to the tired trilogy approach....more
I owe Charlene Brusso of Tachyon Publications for bringing Wonders of the Invisible World into my line of sight. I contacted her about getting an advaI owe Charlene Brusso of Tachyon Publications for bringing Wonders of the Invisible World into my line of sight. I contacted her about getting an advance copy of The Emperor’s Soul, a new book by Brandon Sanderson, which she graciously sent me. Then she asked if I would like advances of two collections: Wonders of the Invisible World and Epic. I answered in the affirmative and she sent them along as well. I’m grateful for her suggestion, as I wouldn’t have picked them up otherwise. This cover art by Thomas Canty doesn’t grab me the same way the captivating cover of The Stress of Her Regard stopped me dead in my catalog-perusing tracks, but it is a lovely fit for these enchanting stories by Patricia A. McKillip. She’s a multiple-award winning author, but I must confess my ignorance of her writing until now. This isn’t the sort of book I would pick up in my own short-sightedness; it’s also the sort of magical realism I truly enjoy. It’s the magic burbling up from the timeless wells deep under the earth. It’s the magic just below the surface of a painting or a pool. It’s the unseen magic of the ordinary that is more believable than the scientific explanation of a phenomenon. It’s the ancient magic of youth. It’s the magic of creation and curses. It’s the magic just beyond our view, and I’m glad to have caught a glimpse of it....more
I read The Angel’s Game and The Shadow of the Wind out of order, although, according to the preface to The Prisoner of Heaven, the cycle can be read iI read The Angel’s Game and The Shadow of the Wind out of order, although, according to the preface to The Prisoner of Heaven, the cycle can be read in any order. After reading The Prisoner of Heaven I read The Angel’s Game again, then re-read The Prisoner of Heaven. I’ve read each of the books twice, and thus, as stated in my review of The Shadow of the Wind, am able to make comparisons between the three. I still like The Angel’s Game the most, which discomfited me while reading The Prisoner of Heaven and caused my intercessory reading of it. The most recent book bridges the two earlier books, but in doing so it extricates the supernatural element that I find so appealing in The Angel’s Game. I see why it is necessary to graft another twisting branch to the tree that is the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, but it sapped the strength from the other limbs....more
I could criticize Leigh Bardugo for her thinly veiled version of Tsarist Russia, but I must disclose that it was the very trait that drew my attentionI could criticize Leigh Bardugo for her thinly veiled version of Tsarist Russia, but I must disclose that it was the very trait that drew my attention to this YA title. I was enthralled by Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless, so I was ready to be transported once more to a far off – yet familiar – land of folklore and magic. Just as Deathless had been promoted with an excerpt on Tor.com, so was Shadow and Bone promoted with a stand alone story, “The Witch of Duva.” I enjoyed that story while waiting for the novel to wend its way through the hold list at the library. Once I received it I blew through it in a couple of days. Shadow and Bone is not as steeped as Deathless; it is a thinner cup of tea. Which is befitting of a young adult novel, and still offers some refreshment to someone accustomed to a more robust brew.
In Tsarist Russia there was a Pale of Settlement, a region designated for the habitation of the Jewish population. In Bardugo’s Ravka there is a Shadow Fold, an area rendered inhospitable by a looming darkness that cannot be dispelled. Only nightmarish creatures called volcra can abide within the shadows, preying upon any humans who venture into the dark. The Fold separates the capital city from its only port, and therefore must be breached for trade. This can only be done by incurring heavy losses, but such barriers have never restrained the Tsars; not when the country’s most abundant resource is its peasant population. From among that population emerges a Sun Summoner, an orphan with the magical ability to summon light. This ability could change the fortunes of all Ravka, but what will it mean for her future?
To her credit, Bardugo’s thinly veiled version of Russia does include class tensions within and racial tensions without, but it could have gone further. Xenophobia does not begin or end at an international border (or a Shadow Fold). There is a religious element in the book, but it doesn’t amount to anything more than a stereotype. These are flavorful ingredients that should be added to the samovar as Bardugo prepares the next two books in the Grisha Trilogy....more
Reading The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear consecutively has set me back on my goal to read less and write more, but it has also taught me aReading The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear consecutively has set me back on my goal to read less and write more, but it has also taught me about the art of writing. In my slim adventure tale Orlando and Geoffrey there is a scene slightly similar to one in The Wise Man’s Fear. The chief difference between the two is that mine is only a passing scene, whereas for Rothfuss it is the payoff of long and arduous build up. There have been some grumblings about how long fans of The Name of the Wind had to wait for the even longer Wise Man’s Fear. I was not one of those long- suffering fans, although I now rue the wait for the conclusion of The Kingkiller Chronicle as well. I would surmise that those few individuals who voiced their displeasure are unaware that writing a thousand page book takes far more time than reading one. It can be a tedious grind to write page upon page of build up as opposed to simply skipping ahead to the exciting portions. What I see in Patrick Rothfuss is a serious dedication to storytelling. It’s a matter of craft, and he is a master of it.
While instructing Kvothe, Master Elodin provides an eloquent response to those who would press upon the author to rush ahead: “I am trying to wake your sleeping mind to the subtle language the world is whispering. I am trying to seduce you into understanding. I am trying to teach you. Quit grabbing at my tits.” I for one would prefer to learn what Rothfuss has to teach me!...more
Deathless is an updated retelling of the tale of Koschei the Deathless and Marya Morevna set in the era of world wars and Russian revolutions. That prDeathless is an updated retelling of the tale of Koschei the Deathless and Marya Morevna set in the era of world wars and Russian revolutions. That premise was enough to draw me in, and the excerpts on the publisher’s website (along with the promotional comic book) completely captivated me.
As a young girl, Marya watches through the window as birds transform into military officers who proceed to marry Marya’s older sisters. “And so Anna went dutifully to the estates of Lieutenant Zhulan, and wrote properly worded letters home to her sisters, in which her verbs were distributed fairly among the nouns, and her datives asked for no more than they required.” The melding of paradigms is delectable! This is lush, indulgent story-telling. Valente’s re-imagining of traditional Russian folktales are vivid and lurid, filled with the blood of life and death. As for Marya, her destiny lies with Koschei the Deathless, who comes for her. She becomes his wife and his wolf (volchitsa). The novel turns on a single question: who is to rule? Husband or Wife? The Old ways or the New? Life or Death? The story vanquishes the characters every time it is retold.
“That’s how you get deathless, volchitsa. Walk the same tale over and over, until you wear a groove in the world, until even if you vanished, the tale would keep turning, keep playing, like a phonograph, and you’d have to get up again, even with a bullet through your eye, to play your part and say your lines.”...more
Matthew Swift is no Henry IV, but his head is uneasy all the same. It’s already occupied by the blue electric angels, and now he has to wrap it aroundMatthew Swift is no Henry IV, but his head is uneasy all the same. It’s already occupied by the blue electric angels, and now he has to wrap it around the minutiae of being the Midnight Mayor. Swift was tagged to replace the outgoing (i.e. deceased) mayor in book two of this series, but it’s taken some time for him to settle into the role. Officiating is not his forte, so he allows the Aldermen to handle the majority of running the city. But when he discovers that a Minority Council has mucked it up behind his back, Swift must ferret out the members who have double-crossed the Midnight Mayor. While Swift is busy learning to be more mayoral we get to see him be more human, which makes this fourth book seem more like the first....more
The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers is one of my favorite books, so I was decidedly intrigued when I learned that he had written a postscript novelThe Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers is one of my favorite books, so I was decidedly intrigued when I learned that he had written a postscript novella, A Time to Cast Away Stones. Tachyon Publications has released a new collection of stories by Powers, including the novella, entitled The Bible Repairman and Other Stories. I was tempted to jump straight to the end to read the novella, but I opted to save the best for last. Upon reading I found that the introduction by the author and his comments on each story’s inception may in fact be the best part of this fascinating collection! The stories are wonderful (I particularly enjoyed “A Soul in a Bottle”), but the aspiring author in me was thrilled with the vignettes which accompanied each tale. The notion that a story could originate with the author’s frustration at being born two years after the death of a celebrated poet appealed to the creative-destructive dark vein in me.
Powers found inspiration in the exploits of Edward John Trelawny for A Time to Cast Away Stones. Trelawny was acquainted with Byron and Shelley, and made an appearance in The Stress of Her Regard. He greatly embellished his own role in history, so it is fitting that Powers took one of his truly unusual adventures and incorporated it into the supernatural realm of the nephelim. Just as The Stress of Her Regard prompted me to read the works of Keats, Byron, and Shelley, so A Time to Cast Away Stones has piqued my curiosity in Powers’ as-yet-untitled new novel featuring Trelawny in his later years....more
King Quentin is restless. The luxurious court life isn’t for him; he may be king, but he’s still looking for the next big thing. Swashbuckling, anyoneKing Quentin is restless. The luxurious court life isn’t for him; he may be king, but he’s still looking for the next big thing. Swashbuckling, anyone? Make that swashbingling, as Quentin takes on Bingle, the realm’s best swordsman, as his bodyguard. Quentin and his crew, which includes Queen Julia, set sail for the Outer Island in order to collect back taxes. Why a king would undertake such a journey personally is questionable, but this is Quentin – questionable behavior is his norm. What does cock an eyebrow is why would Queen Julia accompany him on his questionable task? Because this is their story to share, obviously!
In The Magicians Julia was Quentin’s high school crush whom he inadvertently crushed by not taking her to Brakebills with him. She wasn’t supposed to remember taking – and failing – the magical entrance exam, but she did, and the memory haunted her. Julia sought out magical training in back alleys and basements while Quentin was taught at Brakebills, and in The Magician King we see just how much she sacrificed for her craft.
The Magician King is a more mature book than The Magicians. It’s much less Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia (I’ll take the voyage of the Muntjac over The Voyage of the Dawn Treader any day!) and far more The Aeneid. It isn’t merely magic, it’s myth. It’s also a fine second act, as Quentin gets to become a hero at last, with all the suffering that a successful quest entails (think Jason and the Argonauts). Julia also becomes more than she was before (what is it with Quentin’s girlfriends undergoing supernatural transformations? Poppy might want to get herself checked for magical STDs at the centaur clinic!). With each succeeding book this series becomes more than it was before, and I look forward to the next evolution!...more
“What evil lurks in the stab wounds to the heart of a woman who should be deceased, not possessed?” That is the riddle Matthew Swift must unravel afte“What evil lurks in the stab wounds to the heart of a woman who should be deceased, not possessed?” That is the riddle Matthew Swift must unravel after he is unwittingly summoned into a burning building and finds his conjoined selves lying in a pool of another person’s blood. That person turns out to be Swift’s compatriot Oda, who asks him to help her, and to kill her. Someone else has clearly made an attempt at the latter, but Oda is unnaturally clinging to life. Oda, otherwise known to Swift as “Psycho-bitch,” has threatened to kill Swift for being a sorcerer on numerous occasions, but on this occasion she is requesting her death at his marked hands. Swift’s hands are marked because he is the Midnight Mayor, and, as such, he is drawn into not only burning buildings, but is also embroiled by his office’s treaty in the conflict between the Neon Court and the Tribe, two diametrically opposed factions with a longstanding feud that has boiled over. Then Oda’s eyes take on the look of boiled pudding, and to meet her gaze is to meet your own encephelo-exsanguination. If that weren’t enough, Swift is caught between the projection of his dead mentor, Mr. Bakker, and his new apprentice, Penny. It all adds up to one hellishly long day in court for the Midnight Mayor!...more